Escape from Kaldor

Posted in Audio by - October 11, 2018
Escape from Kaldor

Released October 2018
SOME SPOILERS FOLLOW

Reunited with Helen following their harrowing ordeal with the Eleven and the Kandyman, the Doctor arrives with his companions on Liv’s native Kaldor, a world she would just as soon forget. While Helen and she attend the grand opening of a luxury shopping mall, a glitch in the system turns the servile robots into deadly weapons as Liv’s past brutally confronts her in ‘Escape from Kaldor’ by Matt Fitton.

The Eighth Doctor is certainly no stranger to taking his companions back to their own planets to see what has changed and stayed the same in their absence, having recently done the same with Bliss in ‘The Lords of Terror.’ However, whereas Bliss was eager to return to and explore her roots, Liv is much less enthusiastic and harbours an open resentment against the Founding Families and a lingering despondency for her own sister who put her career ahead of her family at the time of their father’s funeral. Without question, it’s the dynamic between Tula and Liv that forms the emotional crux of this story, and though Liv has never brought herself to hate her sister, she has also found no reason to talk to her during the past decade. Liv’s father has been used to further flesh out this long-standing companion before, and having Liv directly confront her past and how much that has affected her since allows for a brutally honest exploration of both her and the sister she felt she could never live up to in her father’s eyes, and both Nicola Walker and Claire Rushbrook imbue incredible weight and nuance to the estranged relationship on display.

The Doctor is always one to find poetry and beauty in the smallest things, and considering these robots to be a new form of life beginning down the evolutionary path is a strong backdrop for these specific circumstances that prove just how individualistic and free-thinking these mechanical children made to look familiar but not unnervingly so can be. Of course, the synopsis and any familiarity with previous stories related to Kaldor already confirm that the so-called Robots of Death have returned, but the strong sound design and direction allow this unique menace to come to life in a manner that maintains and uneasy tension throughout and that offers some genuine chills along the way. Although it’s unfortunate that the Doctor is stuck to the more exposition-laden storyline as the true machinations behind the scenes are revealed and keeping public face becomes paramount, the layered society of privilege that is shown and the lengths gone to in order to maintain that calm and structured façade as change appears imminent develop satisfyingly to keep the story from ever becoming one-dimensional.

‘Escape from Kaldor’ may not be a completely revolutionary tale, but it confidently uses Liv to logically and emotionally bring the world of Kaldor back into the Doctor’s focus while allowing for immense exploration and development of this companion who has already seen and experienced so much. While the Ravenous headline continues to look more like a collection of standalone stories building to a finale rather than the more cohesive arcs of the Eighth Doctor’s more recent sagas, Fitton and everyone involved in the production have crafted an engaging opening act that wonderfully spotlights the distinct differences between the familial relationships Liv has with her sister and with Helen, an emotional dichotomy that manages to even supersede a solid return by the beloved Robots of Death in the process and that is bolstered by an intriguing coda that leaves unanswered just what Liv experienced during another year alone on Kaldor.

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